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The people, process and technology of remote work.
August 10, 2020

Significant change has taken place in every facet of our lives and with almost every business, remote work is now a permanent feature. The number of Americans working remotely is continuously growing, having increased by 173% since 2005. The ability for teams to collaborate remotely has seen IT budgets being reworked, workforces having to quickly adapt to revision of business practices.

The impact and considerations when planning for remote work hinges largely on the ability to collaborate across teams. This applies to small, medium and large enterprises without exception and touches all components of work, including people, processes and technology.

Technology

It is highly advisable to setup flexible hybrid IT systems to save on costs. A few key points highlighted below, support this advice

  • On-premise setup alone is not sufficient for remote workers as it limits flexibility to get the job done while observing safety protocols, while a cloud-only setup alone may be too expensive to utilize for all workloads. Hybrid IT systems allow an organization to “right-place” IT workloads depending on what makes the most sense for business.
    • On-premise setup for ‘chatty’ applications that don’t readily lend themselves for cloud only implementation
    • Robust collaborative environments such as Microsoft 365 and Google Suite have readily consumable resources and controls for remote workers.
    • Setup robust backup systems that suit your needs for cloud-provisioned workloads.
  • The technology should be designed and implemented with considerations around the following security measures:
    • Mobile Device Management solutions increase security.
    • Take identity management into account. Multifactor and cloud authentication platforms enhance security.
    • Consider how to integrate with technology that must remain on premise, such as VPNs
  • Define the tools employees should use when they are working from home. Install software on the devices they use and provide them with the proper training while they are still in the office, as training can be more challenging in a virtual environment.

People

  •  Preparing your management team for remote work is key. Management practices will shift when a workforce moves from a traditional office environment to virtual. Managers and team leaders will need to relinquish some control and rely on trust.
  • Transitioning to a remote setup can be challenging for some. Help your team get off the ground by supporting them throughout the transition process. Ensure they understand new processes and technology.
  • Set expectations and clear goals for your team. Regularly check in with your individual team members to see how they are dealing with specific tasks, and encourage them to check in with you on a regular basis to provide candid feedback or to discuss challenges they may face.
  • Err on the side of overcommunication. Meetings should be regular and should begin with some small talk. Ask team members how they are coping with the new work environment. Discussions like this will help them feel connected to the team and provide the opportunity to share ideas and personal best practices.

Processes

  • Security of digital and physical corporate assets needs to be clearly defined. Connectivity back to corporate premises will need clearly defined VPN policies and technologies to support the same.
  • Decide on whether employees will utilize company issued laptops, desktops or a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy will be employed. Each one has its own challenges that need to be clearly addressed. For a small organization with limited staff, a single approach could help simplify the implementation, management and support of the remote worker infrastructure. Larger enterprises may be able to afford a variety of equipment deployments.
  • Establish some communication standards. For remote teams, clear communication guidelines are critical since contextual signs such as facial expressions and body language are lacking in a virtual environment. Consider how your team prefers to communicate, when, and which channels they are comfortable with.
  • Determine which media are appropriate for which purposes, such as email for recaps and reporting, video calls for team and one-on-one meetings and chat for quick messages.

For long term success, every leader should live by this mantra – manage the work, not the people – if you’re managing the people you have the wrong people on board – restructure your workforce. Most importantly restructure your systems so that the work is manageable, remotely or on premise. This becomes your winning formula in this new era.